Category Archives: Julie’s journey

Failure or Success?

img_3308Failure and success, two totally different words but how do you interpret them?  Some people think they’ve failed because financial goals haven’t been reached, others judge success by monetary or material means.  Me? I see success as small goals reached, by the amount of response from others positive or negative, because at least someone’s been listening, right? I never judge or assume failure in anyone because I assume they’ve all tried their best and will carry on trying until they feel they’ve achieved.  I feel whoever the person, whatever they do, if they’re happy in their own skin and can sleep at night then they have a right to feel they’ve succeeded.

One thing I’ve learned about people over the last sixty years is we’re all different.  Some can address all the problems and challenges thrown at them by life, I’m one of those, or so I’m told.  Others need to be reassured at every turn and twist.

I’m fortunate, I believe, I’ve succeeded in along with my late wife, Julie, in raising a family who all care for one another and are considerate to their fellow humans.  I’ve  succeeded in getting this far in life without making too many enemies, life’s too short for that!  Oh, there are a few who would disagree but on the whole I’ve lived my life as a good man.  I succeeded in my marriage by standing by my lovely wife who I’d been married to for thirty five years before the cancer snatched her away at fifty seven.

During one of the final conversations we had a couple of days before she died Julie told me “Kev, you’ve been a wonderful father and a lovely husband my darling”.  I replied. “Well sweetie, I figured you did the richer for poorer bit so I did the in sickness and health”  then “Look I know you’re struggling sweet, don’t hang around here for me”  Julie replied, the brave lady she was. “My darling you’re going to have to tell me to go”.  That’s exactly what happened two days later when Julie was struggling to stay with us, I looked at my three children and told them, “you need to tell your mum it’s o.k. to leave”.  More or less as one they gently said.  “Don’t worry Mum, we’ll look after Dad”.  Julie took a final breath and gasped “I love you all”, then she was gone.

Going through that I wasn’t quite so sad, but I felt proud of Julie and pride in our children.  So any time you feel you’re failing, read these humble words I’ve shared, look life in the eye and it will show you the way but never be afraid and see everything you do as a success…..

By the way, if you think there’s a couple of people missing from the photo above, Si was at work and Freddie wasn’t yet born. xxx

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

Julie’s influence, Lessons to be learned?

I was sat in the garden one evening recently and remembered something Julie had said to me in her final letter. “When you sit in our garden, think of me and I’ll be sitting with you” These words prompted  me to think, especially with recent events across the world.

imageThis is Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, most famous for leading and winning the battle against General George Armstrong Custer in 1876.

Custer, it has been well documented, was by all accounts, an arrogant man who had political as well as military ambitions.

Following the defeat of Custer, Sitting Bull said, and I quote ” Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights because no one has the right to take another life.  The warrior is someone who sacrifices himself for the good of others”. “His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenceless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity”

The wise chief also commented ” Man belongs to the earth, earth does not belong to man”

Those quotes come from a great man who died 125 years ago but the philosophy should apply today. Our leaders throughout the world could learn from those few simple words.  As in Sitting Bull’s day, when Custer was in full warring and greed charge, these simple phrases seem to be just as important.  Maybe our leaders ( I have great respect for our Prime Minister), and the leaders of all the civilised world should read, digest and think how those words are relevant to the lives of all humanity as we war with each other and rape world of all its resources!

Finally, I was drawn to another quote from the Chief ” Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing so gentle as real strength”. I’m sure Julie drew me to this as sometimes I feel such emptiness until my family and grandchildren descend to our home and fill it with laughter???

Thanks for reading?

 

Signs from Julie

130Julie wrote letters to not only me but all those close to her before she died.  In her final letter to me she told me to”look out for the signs I’m still around, you can’t get rid of me that easily”. Perhaps I should explain.

When we rebuilt our garden, we did so to encourage bird life in as well as making it a pleasant place to sit.  Since we have finished it we’ve had all types of birds visit.  A little Robin comes and hops around picking up the mealworms the greedy Starlings drop from the feeders.  Percy our friendly pigeon chomps on the peanuts, Sparrows, Coal and Blue Tits along with Blackbirds, Magpies, Crows and the occasional Seagull all come and eat their fill but for over a year Julie and I tried, without success,  to tempt in Goldfinches!

This morning, I was working in my office, which overlooks our garden and conservatory, I look up there on the conservatory roof were a pair of Goldfinches.  “Julie would love these” I thought to myself and as I was thinking this a third Goldfinch flew in and perched on out lilac tree!  I couldn’t believe my luck! “Look out for the signs I’m still around” I smiled to myself then the icing on the cake…A yellow wagtail!! I knew then Julie somehow had a hand in this because when she saw my delight when I saw the Goldfinches she decided to throw in something extra, the Yellow Wagtail.  Thank you Julie xx?? imageimage

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Julie and I were never overtly religious, although she felt the need to get herself confirmed a number of years ago while she was searching for her faith.  I’ve always been more spiritual, preferring not to believe in the traditional ‘go to church and prove your faith’ method but to try to treat others the way I wanted to be treated, even when they’ve done wrong by me.  Julie, despite having the tongue of a viper when riled and the disposition of a hungry T. Rex when suffering from pmt, also became to believe this.  I realised around 40 years ago that life was about compassion for others and “The End Game”.

Someone told me many years ago, my insight and ability to read life was because I was an old spirit, one who had lived many lives before this one.  This small but significant piece of information helped me understand all the flashbacks, all the people only I saw when I was young and the generally different way I perceive life.

A local vicar once asked me “Are you a Christian Kevin?” ” If being a Christian is about helping others and trying to provide for your family, then I suppose I am” I replied ” If you don’t attend God’s house then you can’t call yourself a Christian” was the so called Man of Gods’ next statement. ” Then let’s just say me and God have an understanding, I don’t mess in his affairs so I don’t expect him to mess in mine!” The vicar stopped talking?

Thanks for reading ??

September 7th: The End Game

julieIt’s October 6th, I’ve only just got to write this post because I needed to think hard about it before putting pen to paper.

June and July were busy months for Julie and I, we built her garden, she had her party and we spent lots of time together and with our family.  June, July and August were to be among some of the happiest times of my life.

During those last three months or so, our three grown up children spent as much time as they could spare with Julie, not crowding or showing pity, she didn’t want that, but being normal and supporting to their Mum.image

For Julie and I it was a time to grow even closer than we already were, a time to be strong for each other.  I had come to terms with the fact she was going to move on during the weeks after being told she had incurable cancer.  Julie, despite living with the death sentence never gave up.  Both of us knew the next phase of her existence would be starting soon.

August arrived and Julie started to lose her mobility because her legs had become swollen with fluid.  Her good friend Trudie Hall, also her district nurse, persuaded Julie it was time for a wheelchair. I picked one up from the local Red Cross station, bought it home, then the hard part, getting Julie to sit in it.  “If you think I’m going to get into that, think again”she told me.  You see Julie saw every  pill, every dose of morphine, every moment of sleep as submitting to the disease.  “Well we won’t be going very far then will we?” I countered back.  A couple of days later we visited Hinton Ampner, a National Trust property and after about a hundred yards of walking Julie sat in the chair and allowed me to push her.  I enjoyed pushing her and secretly I think she was glad she had the chair. She reminded me of a regal matriarch?

DSC_0112August wore on, Julie and I spent many evenings sat in our garden talking, surrounded by candlelight and plants.  During this time I noticed  she was becoming more and more tired, she could fall asleep at the drop of a hat, we would be talking then all of a sudden her head would drop and I knew she was asleep.  I’d let her nap for a bit before gently waking her and helping her up the stairs to bed, ensuring she had plenty of drinks to hand.   Those last weeks were, I suppose, thinking back, quite stressful.  Julie became more lethargic and it became more difficult to get her to take her medication, understandably so because at one period she was taking around thirty six pills every day! During the nights she was uncomfortable and restless,  when she was in pain I held her and comforted her while the morphine did its job and waited until she went back to sleep.

My day would begin at around six in the morning,  ensuring her meds were ready, I’d take her a coffee if she felt like one and a rich tea biscuit plus water for the first round of tablets.  I then got to work doing laundry and emptying the dishwasher. After checking on her, I’d  get the work organised for the day, Nathan would then leave to deal with whatever business needed taking care of with our guys but knowing I’d be making my rounds a little later. 7.45 and I would go into the office which is on the same floor as our bedroom and deal with any emails and order materials as required for work. Between 8.30 and 9.00 I helped Julie get dressed then downstairs where she stayed most of the day, generally working on whatever picture she was drawing.  I did my rounds before coming back at every opportunity to make sure she was alright.  It was during this period Julie wrote individual letters to each of our family, her parents and brother and to her very close friend Debs.

imageOur son Nathan and his girlfriend Georgia became engaged to be married in August, Julie was happy as I’d ever seen her when they told us ??. On the 29th of August off they went to Rome to celebrate.  During the week they were away Julie looked forward to the photos Georgia or Nathan posted on Facebook, Rome was on our list of places to visit had she not been ill.

The week between the 29th and up to 4th of September was a defining time, Julie started to go off her food entirely and could only really drink through a straw.  Trudie continued to come in as often as she was needed and told Julie she was going to order a hospital bed to go in our living room, this time no objection from her, she knew she was struggling to use the stairs.  The bed was to be delivered Monday 7th.  Julie meanwhile was sleeping on her reclining chair, I would stay downstairs until she was asleep.

Saturday 5th Julie had a number of visitors, Trudie, Hannah and Matt, then Debs.  Debs was off to The USA on holiday and wanted to see Julie before she went.  I walked Deb to her car and told her this might be the last time she would see Julie, Debs was understandably upset.

Julie was becoming visibly weaker, struggling to talk.  That night she wanted to have a shower and sleep upstairs, I helped her shower and dress.  Julie said to me that evening. “You know the end might be weeks or even days, I can’t cope with this much more”.  ” I know my lovely” I replied “Don’t you cling on and keep putting yourself through this on my account”.  “You are going to have to tell me to go darling” she told me. “If I’d have known it was that easy I’d have done it 35 years ago” says  I. That was the sort of black humour which kept us together for 40 years ❤️?

Nathan arrived back and sat with his mum for a while, relaying all the goodies about Rome.   It was good he was there at that time.  Julie laid in bed and listened to the stories of Nathan and Georgia’s adventures.

Sunday started as usual but today Julie seemed different.  ” I’m very tired today sweet, I think I’ll stay in bed today for a rest”. “You’ve been lovely to me, thank you for looking after me, you’ve been the best husband an father I could wish for!”. ” Thank you my darling” I replied, ” but I took those vows seriously you know”.

She held my hand for a while then I set about the Sunday chores, popping up often to make sure she was ok.

“How are you today ” I asked Julie as I was getting dressed on the Monday “I don’t feel at all right today sweet” was her reply. ” I’ll get your meds then get you downstairs my lovely, OK? Trudie’s coming this morning to change your dressings and Leah is going to stay with you while I organise things” I coaxed, then gently helped her get her dressing gown and got her downstairs to her chair.

I knew I had to go out that morning, so I discreetly phoned Leah who told me she’d be around as soon as she had fed her boys.

“You get off to work!” Julie instructed in a whisper.  ” I won’t belong, I love you” I replied.  I never told her Leah was on her way, Julie hated causing any fuss.

A couple of hours later Leah phoned me and said Trudie was there and had asked if I could pick up a commode and could I get back to help her move Julie.  A commode I thought to myself, this’ll be interesting, I’ll probably end up wearing that, remembering the trouble I’d had with her with the wheelchair and her walking stick (which she mainly used for poking me when I’d made the mistake of dozing on the sofa!).

When I got back, commode and all, I helped Trudie move Julie, I noticed she had deteriorated in the couple of hours I’d been out.  I walked Trudie out ” I don’t think it’s going to be long” I said to her.  ” Trudie agreed with a tear in her eye. ” Are you ok? ” she asked I reassured  her I was and that I knew what to do when it happened.

Nathan arrived back from work, Hannah drove from her job and we sat in the garden while Julie slept.  I told them and Leah I didn’t think their mum was going to last much longer and we should stay with her. Julie’s dad asked if mum and he could come and see her, I told them sooner rather than later.  They arrived about 7 in the evening, Julie was drifting in and out of consciousness but raised a finger to acknowledge they were there.  They left about 7.30, upset naturally, I told them I’d keep them informed.

As I was still dressed for work I went upstairs for a shower, I’d just finished and Nathan called me, Julie wanted to move, I went down and helped them, then back up the stairs to finish dressing.  Julie was on the edge of her chair with Leah, Hannah and Nathan supporting her.  “You need to tell mum it’s ok to leave ” They all told Julie they were going to be ok, as did I, she started to vomit and struggle for breath, ” I love you all” she said and she was gone. ❤️

I made her comfortable for on last time, closed her eyes and cleaned her up.  There were tears but I am so proud of how our three children, who of course are adults coped and treated Julie’s passing as part of life.  She too was proud, I know this because she’s only in a different room, not gone forever.

Thanks for reading

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Birthday party, garden parties and The Circle of Life

imageOne week following Black Wednesday and life has become clearer to a certain extent, plans have been made for the near future and we were back in London for a “handover meeting ” with Julie’s consultant at the Royal Marsden, Charlotte Benson.  “You’ve given it all you have got!” She tells Julie in her comforting bedside manner voice, this is a voice of genuine concern and humility because she feels that she has let down this patient.  Charlotte also knows this won’t be the last time she feels this way because as a general in the army fighting cancer, she knows cancer is a formidable enemy and won’t give in lightly.

Strangely though after we’ve gone through and exhausted all questions I found myself thanking Charlotte for all she has done over the last year or so, after all it wasn’t her fault the cancer had been missed for two years by an incompetent consultant at our local hospital!  No, the team at the Marsden worked hard to try and stem the advance of the cancerous devil.  Enough said!

We had an early dinner at the hotel that evening because we had been treated to a visit to the theatre to watch The Lion King.  While we were getting dressed to go out, Julie came out with another of her now common attacks on her disease.  “This was the only f*****g dress this shitty piece of offal will let me get in to!” She said half to me but mainly to herself.  “Don’t you worry sweetie, you look good whatever you wear” was my reply with a smile and off we went.

Once sat in the Theatre, I found myself sat with a little girl to my left.  It turned out this was her first trip to see a show and she was absolutely captivated.  The irony of this encounter wasn’t lost on me, to my left a little girl who was so excited and lucky to see the vibrancy on stage for the first time and to my right, Julie who had been on stage many times as well as in the audience, knowing she might not get to attend many more performances.  The number being performed while these thoughts drifted through my mind? “The Circle of Life”…..

On the train journey back Julie announced, “I want a party!, it’s going to be my last birthday and I want a party!”  “Ok” I reply, somehow knowing there was more to come. “When would you like it?”  ” As soon as possible of course, and I’ve decided on a few other things as well!” She carried on looking out of the train window.

Once back at home our tribe start descending.  Party was the word of that evening.  The evening became night and the night became an impromptu family party, it was heart warming to be sat at the table in our garden watching Leah, Hannah and Nathan laughing and bantering the night away, a definite memory making moment of love and pride, knowing our three cubs had grown up into independent, hard working Lions and Lionesses.  🙂

One of our really good friends dropped by on the following Saturday to see Julie.  “I’m going to have a party Mel and soon as possible” Julie explained.  “Leave it to me and Michelle” We settled on a date, the 13th of June which was a week following Julie’s birthday then off tromped Mel to break ther news to our other friend, Michelle that she would be helping!  We of course (that’ll be the Royal “We” i.e. me!) would be financing the bash. 🙂

DSC_0003During this period of time, between the beginning of June and the 13th, Nathan and I started to rearrange and generally re-model our garden, not because the party was to be held at home but because Julie wanted us to create a memorial garden for her, “somewhere for family and friends can come and sit and have a drink when I’m gone” she announced prior to the operation.  Julie has a flair for design and Nathan has inherited it.  Nathan and Julie, designed, Nathan and I did the heavy work and everyone had a good time spending on this creation.  One end of the garden had become overgrown, we cleared it and laid down bark and gravel, we trimmed shrubs, and pulled weeds.  Nathan decided a well was required, we built it, Nathan added blue l.e.d. lights, we installed a further water feature and solar powered lighting.

 DSC_0105Julie came up with other little gems, such as the “Beach/sea” theme, “we do live by the sea” she told usphoto(31).  Over the last four weeks we’ve moved and added to our little garden, we’ve spent many of those nights sitting in the garden chatting, sometimes alone and sometimes with our DSC_0113family or friends who’ve dropped in.  Either way the project has given Julie much pleasure.  As for Julie’s Birthday party, that went without a hitch, Julie never got in until 3 in the morning, enjoying every minute in the company of family and a few friends, she couldn’t have everyone we know as friends because my budget couldn’t take anymore of a battering in June.

We’re now into July, how are things now?  Well since that “Black Wednesday”, Nathan and I have tried to go for lunch with Julie every Friday.  Leah and Hannah come in to see their Mum as often as their lives allow and I’ve been spending as much time as possible with Julie, only leaving her when absolutely neccessary.  Her Meds have been modified during the last 24 hours to try to stem the pain but this, at the moment is fighting a losing battle.  However, we remain hopeful, after all how much pain and for how long is a woman, even one as stong as Julie able to withstand the onslaught?  To see the woman who you’ve known and loved for forty years crying in the middle of the night, not because she has life shortening cancer but due to the sheer physical pain she is having to endure hurts.  Knowing there is nothing I can do except try and comfort her as she fights just isn’t enough!  I want to take this vicious disease out of her body, punch it in the face and give it a bloody good kicking!!

Hopefully, the new Meds will kick in sooner rather than later.

Thanks for reading and keep your fingers crossed 🙂

To be continued…..

 

Tears and No Sleep…..

imageBlack Wednesday continued to throw surprises into the evening and through the night.  Following a subdued meal Julie decided she would like to go for a walk into Earls Court Road.

Earls Court Road you may or may not know is very cosmopolitan, very busy and always bustling.  We walked to the junction where it joins the busy A4 and just lent on the barriers talking, mainly about our family.  A sharply dressed woman with a black pull along briefcase approached me and asked for directions.  “I’m sorry but I don’t know” I replied ” but those three guys will”. I directed her to three police officers.  She left us alone to continue our conversation.  A thought crossed my mind at that moment ” everyone you meet you meet for a purpose”.

“Let’s go to the Co-Op I fancy something nice to eat!” Julie broke my chain of thought. Something nice to eat from Julie is code for chocolate, Pringles or anything of that nature. “Come on then my sweet” I held her hand and off we went.  “You can get a bottle of wine to take back to our room, you look like you could do with a drink!” She insisted.

As we approached the Co-Op Julie spied a homeless (possibly) man and his dog sat in a corner “I’m going to buy him something to eat and get his dog some food” Julie announced.  There she was just hours after being given some devastating news and she was thinking of someone else’s plight. “Everyone you meet you meet for a purpose” That thought crossed my mind yet again!  “You go and get a bottle of wine” she ordered.

So, there I am stood aimlessly in front of the wine display trying to decide which to buy and an unshaven guy with a top knot is beside me filling up a green bag with bottles of wine!  He turned and headed towards the entrance.  “Obviously not going to pay for that!” I think and start to follow him.  He got to the door and I shout ” Hey you, yes you you thieving twat!” As he turns, “Yeah?” He looks me in the eye, as if daring me to make a move then gives me the finger! Red rag to a bull time, blatant thieving and taking the piss!!! For the second time that day I start running, chasing someone.  I lost him as he ran up Earls Court Road and disappeared in the crowd.  “Jesus, here I am nearly 60 and I’m chasing a thief and for the second time within a few hours running through the streets of London.  I’m too old for this s–t!” I think as I’m making my way back to Julie.

“Have you got your wine sweet?” She asks, I relayed the events of the last few minutes to her.  “That’s what I love about you, never a dull moment!” I picked up a bottle and collared the manager who was totally unconcerned with the loss of his stock, paid and Julie took her offering to the homeless man and his dog.

We left the hotel the following day after missing breakfast, Julie had had a good nights sleep, I, on the other hand dozed off and on, turning things over in my mind.

Following an uneventful trip back, we were picked up from the station by Leah, our eldest, who as soon as she saw her mum dissolved into tears.  Daddies always give their children a big hug when they are upset and this seemed to work this time, even though the news was the worst.

After getting back to ours and being bombarded with questions and theories from Nathan (this is his way of coping),  Trudie, Julie’s long time nurse friend arrived on a social visit.  “I want to talk to Trudie alone” Julie instructed.  Leah, Nathan and I adjourned to sit in the garden to wait for Hannah and the rest of our lovely family to arrive.  After Trudie had left and once I could speak to Julie alone, I asked her why she wanted to talk to Trudie on her own.  “I needed to ask her what is going to happen at the end” Julie replied.  At that moment I realised just how strong Julie is, facing the inevitability of life by looking at it straight in the eye.

There were many tears that day as my family struggled to come to terms with what is to happen at some stage, there were more tears the following day when visiting Julie’s mum and dad and there will be more in the future.   I have seen it as my duty as a husband and father to support all of my family in turn, they of course are concerned about me because I rarely show emotion.  My strength comes from knowing I have to care for Julie and I need to be there for everyone else in the family.

When people and family ask how do I cope I sum it up like this.  I would much rather it was I who had the disease, but it’s not.  I am glad it’s not Leah, Hannah, Nathan or one of their partners or one of our Grandchildren because that is not the natural order of things, parents aren’t meant to out live their children.  What is happening to us is life, losing people you love is part of life.   By continuing to live while we still have time we are still building more memories…….

To be continued..

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

“Black Wednesday”

imageWriting this on the train on the way back from London following Julie’s final visit to the Royal Marsden it’s difficult to describe my feelings following the last 15 months.  Dealing with the ups and downs of chemotherapy, the incessant worry while awaiting scan results would appear to be at an end.

Last week we were given the news that there was nothing more that could be thrown at the cancer which would produce a positive result.  Julie and I came out of the Marsden full of apprehension. Not because the news was bad, we’ve been expecting the worst since we were told Julie’s disease was incurable but we had to somehow tell our three grown up children they are going to lose their mum at some stage. I rehearsed by phoning Julie’s dad, he was certainly devastated but held it together.

After the news while walking along the Cromwell Road, Julie was hit by a car while on the pavement,  a wing mirror had clipped her arm, I ran after it but couldn’t catch it.  I got back to her and she was in tears. ” I hate this, I just want to f—–g stand here and scream!”  I just held her for a minute before we continued into the Natural History for lunch.  We sat at a table and I tried to comprehend how Julie was feeling, although I did all the eating, I knew somehow she was sorting her mind.

I had just published my latest Blog about one of my pet subjects, obesity.  We talked about it, Ju gave me the usual lecture about being blunt and to the point and we continued our game of fat watching and boy there was some subject matter wandering the halls of the Museum that Wednesday!  I had just finished my sandwich and a woman came over and asked if we had finished. “Yeah” I answered “Just give us a minute”. She decided to hover.  “I hate this, having to stand over someone” she whined.  The husband appeared.  “Let me clear the table and you can have it” Julie, always the pinnacle of politeness said.  “Come on, come on time’s moving on” The idiot husband attempted to joke.  Enough’s enough!  “You’re not wrong, my wife has just been told she may only have three months to live!” I snap, daring him to continue!  “Surely not?” he was clearly embarrassed.  I had my coat on and started to walk away when I heard Julie’s voice.  “Yes it’s true, I’ve cancer. I’m sorry, it is very raw at the moment!”  Mr and Mrs Pushy went quiet and suddenly I felt embarrassed.  Not embarrassed because for what I said to the couple but embarrassed because for the first time in 40 years, Julie felt she had to apologise for me.

We walked into the gardens of the museum and I apologised to Julie for putting her in the position where she thought my actions needed defending, she held my hand tighter.

After finding a bench to sit on we started to discuss our options.  Did we wait until we arrived back at home then tell our family? Did we want to do this over the phone?   Who to tell first?  They are all adults we decided and this is a time to be an adult.  After much conversation we came to a decision.  I would speak to Simon, our son-in-law first then he could break the news to Leah, then they could speak to Hannah and Nathan.

I made the call to Simon while standing by “the tree that is older than the dinosaurs”, he was clearly upset but as usual he was calm and listened and made suggestions.  I felt a little calmer after talking to Si but something still nagged at my mind.  Julie and I continued our walk up Exhibition Road then took a left past The Royal Albert Hall and back to the hotel for dinner.  All the way we held hands and talked and talked, almost as though we had just met again.

Once back in our room I told Julie what was on my mind.  I had made a promise to Nathan to keep him informed whatever.  “I’m gonna call Nathan, Julie, I made him a promise and don’t want to break it.  He’s a man and an adult and will be able to handle it! He’s working but the guys will support him.”  I made one of the most difficult calls I’ve ever make.  The anger in my son’s voice was there and I knew there was nothing else I wanted but to give him a hug like I used to when he was hurting as a child, but of course he was seventy miles away.

That Wednesday evening was full of mixed emotion, we spoke to Leah, Hannah and Nathan again then Julie’s older brother, each time just as hard.

To Be Continued……

Thanks for Reading 🙂

Two weeks is a long time…….eight weeks are shorter

I haven’t written and posted since May 3rd, not because I’ve been stuck for words but we’ve been busy work wise and with all the issues that entails.

Julie is not faring well on the latest chemo.  After her latest treatment, she had to spend almost a full week in bed recovering, not so good,  not feeling well enough even to walk downstairs.  The one thing you get to find out when you are close to someone with cancer is they are not the only one.  Also, there is always someone whose battle seems harder and fortunately, there are some who make a full recovery.

A long standing client of mine, “John” has spent a good part of his later years caring for his wife who started off with breast cancer, it then spread to her jaw which she had re built but she made a full recovery.  Now John has the disease, prostrate cancer and just for good measure also in his lymph glands.  I know his wife will be there for him but life is cruel sometimes.

Then there is “Ann” Ann is an ex nurse, her husband had a major heart attack and died around the time she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Ann’s disease is in her lungs, liver and her bones.  When I first met her she explained she had been very ill and we would have to conduct our business while she sat down.  Once I had told her about Julie, we got on very well.

Ann too is a brave lady,  we always have a laugh and joke about life and the way it keeps tripping you up!  This week while I was hanging some new doors for her she told me she had a couple of  appointments at the hospital, one for some radiotherapy and another for a scan.  She got up on Wednesday  I asked her how she had got on.  “Not good, it’s got worse, no wonder I feel so rubbish!  Anyway back over today to get the results” she added.

Thursday her daughter in law told me Ann had been given no longer than eight weeks to live. Everyone went off to work, I carried on working.  A little while later Ann was up.  ” I suppose you’ve heard? She asked. “Yep, it’s a nasty little feller, that cancer, but I have to say Ann you just don’t have the look of a dying lady!” I reply. A little while later that day she went off with her son for lunch and to the garden centre.

I typed up her invoice the following day and emailed it to her around seven in the morning asking her to let me know when it would be convenient for her for me to pick up a cheque.  Within five minutes Ann had sent me a text saying ten would be good for her.

I arrived just after ten to find Ann up, about and in fine spirits.  “You my lovely are something else, I can’t believe you replied to my email so early!” I told her.  ” I know” she said “Isn’t it wonderful, they put me on steroids and I’m absolutely wired. Do you know, yesterday I actually walked around the Garden Centre.  Up until now I’ve had to have a wheelchair.  I’ve even written your cheque already!” She enthused.  We had a long chat about life, her funeral and loads of other totally meaningless rubbish before I left.

I know that Friday might be the last time I see Ann, it won’t be the last time I’m in the house because she has contracted Nathan and I to do more work, on her behalf, posthumously for her son.

On that Friday, Ann had all of a sudden been given some sort of closure to the battle she had been fighting for four years.  It was as if she’s been given permission to leave the wreck of her body and move on.   I really hope she survives longer than those short eight weeks, but only if she wants to.

As I put the final touches to this, I’m on a train, heading to London and the Royal Marsden with Julie, once more. Since last Saturday she’s been suffering a bit.  Her happy juice (morphine) has taken a bit of a battering over the last few days, we even had a conversation where Julie told me if the pain was this bad now, I was to ensure she drank plenty of happy juice so she didn’t suffer any more when she was ready.

Am I capable of following that instruction? Yes I’m capable and brave enough and will do whatever’s required to ensure she doesn’t suffer any more than she wants. Then face the consequences because at that stage, I won’t care that much about me, only Julie, Leah, Hannah and Nathan

Thanks for reading 🙂

Rebecca Ferdinand & Julie Atkins

Image result for rebecca ferdinandToday we’ve heard the terrible news Rebecca Ferdinand, pictured below with her husband Rio Ferdinand, lost her short battle with cancer.  So what has this got to do with Julie, my wife?  How are they both connected?  Here’s how.  Both Rebecca and Rio and  Julie and I both have three children.  Both Rebecca and Julie fought and in Julie’s case, is still fighting Cancer, albeit different types, but both just as deadly.  Both Rebecca was and Julie still is being treated for this life changing disease in The Royal Marsden Hospital in London.  photo(30)

The picture of Julie and I (left )was also taken before she was diagnosed and at that time we had no idea of the onslaught that was to engulf our family.

If anyone who has never been this situation tells you they know how it affects you, your family and your life in general, they don’t.  As Rio, Rebecca and their families have found out, one day you are going to work, speaking to each other normally, laughing, arguing and just living life as normal, then someone presses the button which says you have cancer.  When this happens, boy, your life changes.

It takes a little while to digest how this affects your life.  Julie and I both decided within hours how would tackle the situation.  She was told without me, at that stage when I was summoned to join her in the hospital where we  were only told “the fibroid” wasn’t a fibroid but a huge growth which (had been misdiagnosed) was cancer. We were told the diagnosing hospital couldn’t treat it successfully as they didn’t have the knowledge and duly referred to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea (below).  I say we because although Julie has the disease,  we fight it together. http://www.floydslaski.co.uk/images/RMH_big.jpg

When we first arrived at the Royal Marsden, we had no idea what news was about to be given to us, we had booked into a hotel, stopped on the way from Earls Court to Chelsea at a local wine bar for a drink because we were early before going into register and enter the packed outpatients waiting room.  Julie was called more or less on time or probably a little later and we were taken to an examination room.  A man, possibly about my age entered with a specialist nurse entered and introduced himself as Ian Judson, “Ian” it turned out is Professor Ian Judson, the softly spoken hehttp://www.sarcoma.org.uk/sarcomaukfile/upload/IanJudson.jpgad of the Sarcoma Unit and one of the foremost oncologists in the world! His specialist nurse, Alison Dunlop a straight spoken Glaswegian lady with a difficult job, supporting and imparting information to mainly but not always, incurrable patients.

Professor Judson sat on the bed dangling his legs, and started speaking. “After studying the scans sent by your hospital, It’s not the nodules in your lungs which are concerning me, I think we can deal with those relatively easily but the tumours on your liver.”  I didn’t want to ask the question,  before I could gather my wits and say anything Julie asked “So you’re saying I’ve got lung and liver cancer?” The professor went on to explain the type of cancer Julie has is a Uterine Leiomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer which form in muscle tissue.  This he went on to explain had been dealt with but because it had been left too long had spread to the liver and lungs.  I could see Julie had been taken back so I started asking the questions.

Obviously we needed some sort of prognosis. “Until we’ve done our own scans, all I can tell you is that it is incurable.  We are very good at what we do here and have access to different and more radical drugs which other hospitals don’t have” Prof Judson continued.  ” He has a way of giving bad news without making it seem like a major disaster, in fact all of the staff at The Marsden are the same. “Alison will go through the details of the first treatment we’ll try which is Doxorubicin, if this doesn’t work we’ve plenty more in our armoury.”  Plenty more was said I’m sure but that is what stuck in my head.  We shook hands and the professor left.

Alison went onto explain the side effects of the drugs and how it would be administered then reiterated how this wasn’t the only drug to use, she also said as did Ian to go home and think about all that was said before making a decision as this was a lot to absorb.  You’re telling ME !!

We went back to the hotel, discussing this monster inside Julie and how to tell Leah, Hannah and Nathan, our three children and her mum and dad.  Prior to dinner that evening over a drink Julie said to me ” I’m not giving up without a fight, this fucker’s not taking me easily!”

I’m pretty sure Rebecca and Rio probably had a similar experience to us, this beacon of light, The Royal Marsden, gives all the same treatment and the staff never give up until all avenues are exhausted and even then they continue to give pallative care.  The Ferdinands and their families will have cried together, hugged and kissed each other, made vows to one another, unfortunatley Rebecca has lost her fight, it is up to Rio to be both mother and father to his three children as they grow up missing their mum.  Ours are all grown up but as a close family it’s no less painfull.

As I write this Julie is in bed recovering after another bout of chemo, feeling and being sick and sleeping while this, her third different drug in the last 12 months does it’s stuff, hopefully.  I don’t know how much time we have left together, after being with each other for 40 years and married for 35 of those, I guess we’ve been lucky so far.

My heart goes out not only to Rio, his children and family but also to all of the many cancer sufferers who have to deal with this disease because I know how you feel.

With cancer, you get up in the morning, it’s there, you close your eyes and wake up, it’s there, whatever you do every single second of every single day, it’s there, waiting like a dragon to sneak up and when it’s ready, to eat you.  The only way to live with this monster is to accept what it’s capable of and fight.  Sometimes you feel like you are winning, other times, you are backed into a corner.  If you are lucky, the dragon’s hunger stays satisfied.  Other times as in Rebecca’s case he sneaks up behind you and feeds.

To the Royal Marsden I say this, your work is invaluable, even if sometimes the results are negative, your attitude is always positive.  Keep up the good work!

Thanks for reading 🙂